Nigeria’s National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has warned Nigerian researchers in the nation’s ivory towers and other herbal medicine practitioners to desist from parading unverified medicinal products as suitable for curing Covid-19, without NAFDAC’s approval.
It accused the University of Jos (UNIJOS) of trying to sell such unverified herbal products to its members of staff, warning that no herbal medicine has been approved for the treatment of Covid-19.
The agency also cautioned against the excessive consumption of onions and garlic, saying that both do not cure Covid-19.
In a statement Sunday in Abuja by NAFDAC’s Resident Media Consultant, Sayo Akintola, the Director-General of the agency, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, said NAFDAC had submitted proposals for some herbal medicines to receive federal government’s grants for clinical trials.
She said it was improper for anyone, whether a researcher in the university or a herbal medicine practitioner, to parade unverified herbal medicine which is yet to go through clinical trials as a remedy for Covid-19.
She added: “There is no single medicine that has been identified today to cure COVID -19. But there are herbal medicines that could alleviate symptoms of Covid-19.
“As far as NAFDAC is concerned, we have not approved any medicine to treat Covid-19. We have approved medicines that they said can alleviate symptoms and relieve people of some symptoms of Covid-19.
“When the product is listed then clinical trial may start. I used ‘may’ because it’s expensive; it takes a lot of money to do clinical trial.”
According to her, the University of Jos has been given approval for its product, Silymarin, to commence clinical trial but that the process is yet to commence.
“University of Jos said that there was a herbal medicine, whether its tea or whatever, that can cure COVID-19. They linked it with treatment of COVID -19. They did the packaging.
“We did a letter to warn them that they cannot claim something unless it has gone through our listing process. They were trying to sell it to their staff. That is violation of our own regulatory policies. Nobody should say that this one can cure this or that without going through NAFDAC listing process,” she stated.
According to her, the research into herbal medicine by the academia is normal.
She, however, stated the academia should also recognise the national regulatory authority established to safeguard the safety of Nigerians by ensuring that the product that they are working on has to go through NAFDAC if they want to make it available for human consumption.
Adeyeye warned that any attempt to market or distribute unapproved herbal medicine is a violation of the regulatory authority’s regulation and protocols.
While giving an insight into the reason why no locally-produced herbal medicine has yet been approved by the agency in the treatment of Covid-19 in Nigeria, Adeyeye said that no single herbal medicine had gone through full clinical trial.
According to her, when NAFDAC approves medicines for listing, it means that it has been tested and is deemed safe to use.
“NAFDAC cannot say herbal medicine can treat Covid-19 until clinical trial is done. “Right now, there is no single herbal medicine that has gone through full clinical trial the way clinical trial is supposed to be done.
“To do official clinical trial, you must write a protocol, you must pass it through the National Health Research Ethical Committee (NHREC); you have to pass it through NAFDAC. We have not received any like that,” she added.
However, Adeyeye said the agency had approved some herbal medicines that the makers claimed could alleviate some of the symptoms of Covid-19, stressing that some of them are immune boosters that can increase the immune level of people.
She said many herbal products had been submitted for federal government’s grants because most of the herbal practitioners lacked the required wherewithal to do clinical trial.
“As we speak, many of these herbal products are being subjected to review by different agencies of government in the country. In terms of going through clinical trial official protocols, none has come through yet. That doesn’t mean they will not because the process is still on,” she said.
The NAFDAC DG explained that the agency will also do some physical testing, and some piezochemical testing on the products.
“We will find out whether it has other components that may be used to alleviate some symptoms. We will also go to the manufacturing site to establish its level of Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) compliance. If it does, then we take samples’,” she said.
Adeyeye stated that listing means temporary approval for two years and renewable as a prelude to the clinical trial process.
She also warned Nigerians against excessive consumption of onions and garlic with a view to curing Covid–19.
She said: ‘’If you eat too much, your breath will be smelling and nobody will want to stay by you’’.
She stated that onions or garlic or any of the natural fruits that people take have antioxidant and nutrients that could help the users feel better.
‘’People might have been using it and they get better. But if it is not documented, it cannot be recognised by NAFDAC for Covid-19. They work on our cells to keep people healthier, but not to cure Covid-19. They help our body to function better. There is no cure for COVID-19 yet,’’ she added.
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja